This delicious Garden Salad is the perfect side dish for any meal! Keep it simple, or customize it with your favorite veggies and dressing ... either way, you're going to love this easy recipe!
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Can we talk about the humble side salad for a minute? I love a one dish meal as much as the next person, but sometimes you need a little something extra. Know what I mean?
That's where this Fresh Garden Salad recipe comes in! This salad is simple, but genius ... it goes with everything from pizza to pasta, soups, and more. Toss in some protein, and you've even got yourself a light meal.
This salad is so simple to make and so easy to customize! Stick to basic salad toppings like I did (tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions), or use your favorite garden fresh veggies.
I paired this easy salad with bright lemon dressing, but you can change things up with an Italian vinaigrette, blue cheese, or ranch, too.
Ready to dig in? Keep reading for the easy recipe, plus tons of tips and topping ideas!
So what exactly is a garden salad? It's a type of Green Salad that's typically made with lettuce tossed with garden fresh veggies (hence the name). It's often topped with croutons and can be made with different salad dressings.
Here's what you'll need for the recipe:
- Lettuce - I used a head of green leaf lettuce for this recipe. It has a great tender-crisp texture, however romaine, butter lettuce, iceberg, or red leaf lettuce would also work great. Toss in some bitter greens, like radicchio or endive for a change of pace. To save time, use a package of mixed greens instead.
- Vegetables - This recipes calls for a combination of grape tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions. Don't stop there though, clean out your fridge! Pretty much any veggie that can be eaten raw with work ... carrots, radishes, bell peppers, etc.
- Croutons - While croutons are optional, they really ramp up the flavors of this simple salad. Use store bought, or make my yummy Homemade Croutons or these tasty Sourdough Croutons. They're both the perfect way to use up leftover or stale bread.
This easy Garden Green Salad recipe is endlessly flexible! You can add different veggies (really, whatever is freshest), cheese, nuts, and more. You'll find more topping ideas below.
To keep with the simple theme, I paired this recipe with a basic Lemon Olive Oil Dressing that couldn't be easier to make. Just two ingredients, plus salt and pepper!
Try this salad with my scrumptious Maple Vinaigrette or this classic Red Wine Vinaigrette too, or serve it with your favorite dressing, like Italian, ranch, blue cheese, French Vinaigrette, balsamic, thousand island, caesar ... anything goes here!
You'll Also Need
Grab your biggest bowl to toss all the ingredients together, along with a small jar (a mason jar works great) to prepare the dressing. If you make a lot of salads, I highly recommend making a small investment in a salad spinner! A salad spinner makes it super easy to clean heads of lettuce and to remove excess water that would otherwise dilute your dressing.
How to Make a Garden Salad
All right, let's get started! You'll find a detailed recipe below, but here's an overview of the steps:
- Prep veggies. Begin by washing and drying the vegetables. Tear or chop the lettuce into pieces, halve the tomatoes, and thinly slice the onion and cucumber. Remember to cut everything into bite-sized pieces. That way, it will be easier to eat.
- Make the dressing. Next, grab a jar to make the homemade vinaigrette. Add the fresh lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, then shake until the ingredients have combined. It should almost look creamy.
- Add lettuce, veggies, and dressing to a large bowl. You want to use just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the lettuce and veggies, so don't dump it all in at once. You may have a little left over.
- Toss to combine. Finally, use a pair of salad tongs or two wood spoons and gently toss everything together. Drizzle in more salad dressing, as needed, and add an extra pinch of salt and pepper if the salad tastes bland. Finally, top with croutons.
And that's all there is to it, your beautiful and delicious Mixed Garden Salad is ready to eat! Wasn't that easy?
Now for the fun part: toppings! This basic Garden Salad is just begging for a little experimentation. Clean out your fridge or cabinets, or try one of these tasty ideas:
- Vegetables - While I kept things simple with tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, almost any veggie goes. Give carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, radishes, zucchini / summer squash, celery, snap or snow peas, avocado, jicama, green onions, or edamame a try. Grilled Veggies, Roasted Vegetables, or Pickled Onions would also be delish. Mix and match to create your perfect salad!
- Herbs - Do you have fresh herbs you need to use up? Mix in fresh basil, flat leaf parsley, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, or tarragon. Stronger herbs, like oregano, thyme, or rosemary, will also work, but you'll want to add just a pinch.
- Cheese - A little cheese is a tasty way to add richness to your veggie salad. Try feta, goat cheese, blue cheese, shredded cheddar, gouda or swiss, parmesan, or even grilled halloumi.
- Nuts / Seeds - Give your salad some crunch by topping it with almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, macadamias, pepitas, Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, hemp hearts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, or other nuts and seeds.
- Fresh or Dried Fruit - I love salads made with fresh or dried fruit ... it gives them an unexpected sweet-savory twist! Apples, pears, oranges, grapefruit, blueberries, strawberries, goji berries, peaches, apricots, raspberries, kiwi, melon, grapes, mangos, and figs would all be delightful.
- Beans - Humble beans, such as chickpeas, lentils, black beans, white beans, etc., are all a great way to add extra protein.
- Hard Boiled Eggs - You can also add protein with eggs. Top your salad with sliced or quartered hard boiled eggs sprinkled with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Olives - Salty olives make almost any salad better, including this one! Try standard black olives, green olives, kalamata olives, or a more gourmet variety.
- Capers - Briny capers are another ingredients that adds a wonderful pop of flavor. Sprinkle them over the top so they don't get lost in the bowl.
Tips for a Better Tasting Salad
Does your salad game need a little help? These easy tips will help your perfect this basic recipe:
- Dry veggies and lettuce. I'm assuming you wash fresh veggies before adding them to a salad, but do you also dry them? Excess water is the fastest way to dilute a salad's dressing and overall flavor. Blot vegetables dry with a towel before chopping them and remove excess water from greens with a salad spinner.
- Dress the salad just before serving. No matter what kind of dressing or vinaigrette you're using, always add it right before serving. If you mix it in too soon, your lettuce will wilt.
- Use less salad dressing. While dressings add lots of flavor, less is more. Add a little at a time while you toss the greens. They should be lightly coated, not drowning.
- Toss the greens with the dressing. Unless you're serving a table full of picky eaters, don't drizzle the dressing over top. Mixing it into the salad will ensure that every component tastes amazing.
- Season with salt and pepper. Adding just a pinch or salt and pepper goes a long way toward making all the flavors pop.
- Use flavorful ingredients. The easiest way to create an irresistible salad is by using high quality ingredients. Pair your garden fresh veggies with a tasty dressing, rich cheese, salty olives, crunchy croutons and nuts, etc.
Wondering what to serve with Garden Salad? This simple side salad goes with almost anything! It's wonderful paired with soups, sandwiches, chili, pastas, pizzas, and so much more. You can use it to round out almost any meal.
It's also perfect on its own as a light meal! Add in some chickpeas (roasted are especially delicious!) or other protein, cheese, and any veggies you might have in your fridge, then serve it in your biggest bowl. Pair with a slice of crusty artisan bread, Garlic Bread, or Beer Bread. Yum!
You'll love the ease of this fan favorite recipe for parties and for serving a crowd, too! Just double or even triple the ingredients as needed.
This recipe tastes best freshly made. You can prep the different salad components (veggies + dressing) earlier in the day and store them in your refrigerator. However, don't mix everything together or add the salad dressing until just before you eat.
Looking for more simple salad recipes? Try one of these next:
- Easy Massaged Kale Salad
- Tomato Chickpea Salad
- Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad
- Easy Chopped Salad
- Creamy Kale Salad
P.S. You can find lots more where that came from ... check out all my salad recipes for more ideas!
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 large head green leaf lettuce (or lettuce of choice)
- 1 english cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- ½ red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cups homemade croutons
- Large Bowl
- Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to a small jar with lid. Shake until well combined.
- Taste, then adjust seasoning with additonal salt and pepper, if needed. Set aside.
- Tear or chop lettuce into bite size pieces, then add to a large bowl. Top with cucumber, tomatoes, and red onion.
- Drizzle salad lightly with dressing, then toss gently. Add more dressing while mixing, if needed, using just enough to lightly coat greens and veggies (you may have leftovers).
- Taste salad, then add a pinch of salt and pepper, if needed.
- Serve salad immediately, topped with croutons. Enjoy!